Sunday, June 16, 2013

Missing Papa: Part 1

This is MamaGoof's first Father's Day without her father, although in a sense we lost him years ago.

My father-in-law was one of my heroes - a strong brave man.  (He wasn't a substitute father, I've got a dad and I'm good with him.  This isn't about my dad, it's about my father-in-law.)  He was born in a backwoods town in Guatemala in the 1920s.  He didn't know his father and his mother died young.  He and a half-sister were farmed out to relatives who made them work.  And that's what he did, he worked.  He told me a story about playing matador with the "little bulls" on a farm where he was a hand (he smiled, but it sounded terrifying).  I also heard a story about his working at a brewery - that sounded less terrifying.

He and his sister, Nana, ended up at the German Consulate and an American family looking for domestics visited Guatemala and hired them.  They did that for a while, then my father-in-law started working in construction - he got along well with some difficult bosses because he could do the job right.  Nana worked as a seamstress at a factory, there she met a nice lady and suggested that she meet her brother.

Papa went to work at a GM factory, a hard job, but even harder since he worked the evening shift and had spent all day doing yard-work for extra money.  They invested that money well - Catholic school for their four children.  It paid off, they got a two medical doctors, a PhD in statistics, and a dental hygienist out of it.  It isn't just that the children are all accomplished, but that they help people, they relieve pain and cure illness.

I know there is a lot more to this story and it is to my great regret that I didn't learn Spanish so I couldn't really talk to them.  Although they were always very sweet to me.

He could build or fix anything. He had a number of inventions around the house, and I can only imagine what he could have accomplished with a fraction of the blessings he provided his children (or that yours truly takes for granted.)

He wasn't just a Horatio Alger, doing right all the time.  He had a big infectious smile and loved to joke.  His formal education was limited, but he loved to make clever puns (that I couldn't appreciate because they were always in Spanish.)

He traveled with a tin of pequin chilis because he needed the fire (his daughter inherited his high tolerance for radioactive food.)  He always offered one to me, grinning.  Wisely, I declined.

Growing up, MamaGoof thought her father was Fred Flintstone.  He worked in construction, had a big square face, and loved his ribs - it made perfect sense.

And he loved being a Grandfather.  He and the little Goofs would putter around the yard, poking at plants and exploring his endless collection of tools.  We would go to the park and he would happily dig in the sand with his grandchildren.  On the ride to the park, he and GoofBoy would play-fight in the backseat and laugh.


janaki said...

I loved the image of Fred Flintstone, and it's great to see these photos.

Hoping this day wasn't too hard on Mama Goof!

Father Goof said...

Thanks. It was a hard day for her, it has been a hard year (and really a hard decade.) I wish she had a cathartic outlet (like blogging say) but that's not her.